The Plans God Has for Us – Part II

The overarching theme of the Book of Jeremiah is judgment.


Though Jeremiah 29:11 is often quoted as a stand-alone verse, the context of it dramatically enriches its meaning. The context also reveals meaning that we would miss if we didn’t understand the circumstances in which these words were spoken. This is the main message of the first installment of this three-part series – The Plans God Has for Us – Part I.

When we read the following words, we should be mindful of the context:

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Aside from the fact that we often ask God merely to bless our own plans, not considering (or taking seriously) that He has plans for us, this verse is often quoted with anticipation of some immediate or not-too-distant hope and future. But the context suggests that we should apply the verse in a much larger context than the immediate and near future circumstances of our own lives.

Consider that the prophet, Jeremiah, lived and served God during the last four decades before the last of God’s people who were given the Promised Land, the nation of Judah, were overtaken and exiled to Babylon. Jeremiah’s life and prophetic ministry spanned from the 13th year of the reign of King Josiah (627/626 BC) through the siege and capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BC.

These were doom and gloom years in which an ominous cloud of darkness loomed over Judah and eventually swallowed them up. Most of Jeremiah’s ministry focused on warning God’s people of the impending doom.

Jeremiah wasn’t’ a popular prophet (not that prophets are known to be popular). He was imprisoned, and his life was threatened multiple times during the course of his ministry. People didn’t like or receive well the drumbeat of warning that he pounded.

The Book of Jeremiah reveals a prophet whose life was full of emotional angst, as the people of Judah didn’t want to hear what he had to say and were hostile to his message. He was faithful to God in spite of the unpopularity it brought him. He often lamented the hard-heartedness of the people and their refusal to take heed.

“Jeremiah found himself addressing a nation hurtling headlong toward judgment from God. The Israelites may have feared the future as the outside powers drew near, but rather than respond with humility and repentance, the people of Judah primarily lived as islands unto themselves, disregarding both the Lord’s commandments and the increasing danger that resulted from their disobedience.”[i]

Because Jeremiah’s ministry stretched over the 40 years just before the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem and exile, the overarching theme of the Book of Jeremiah is judgment. The chronicle of the history of God’s people from the covenant God made with them in the Sinai Desert to the time of Jeremiah was approximately 900 years marked by ongoing disbelief and disobedience, culminating in the Babylonian exile.

Jeremiah 29:11 is quoted from a letter Jeremiah wrote to the Babylonian exiles after the judgment he had been proclaiming for four decades finally came to pass.

The larger context is almost 900 years of disbelief and disobedience from the very people God chose to call His own. The immediate context is 40 years of Jeremiah warning God’s people of God’s imminent judgment and their refusal to listen or change their ways. In that gloomy scenario in which that judgment finally came to pass, Jeremiah writes:

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11)

As we look at the entire letter from Jeremiah to his exiled brethren and consider its application, then and now, the nuances of Scriptural meaning and application to our lives becomes more poignant. We will do this in The Plans God Has for Us – Part III.

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[i] See Insight for Living, Jeremiah, by Charles Swindoll.

When Your King is a Child

Was the election of Donald Trump a blessing from God? Or a curse?


“And I will make boys their princes, and infants [caprice] shall rule over them.” (Isaiah 3:4)

In the 2nd chapter of Isaiah, it starts out with a futuristic vision. Isaiah 2 provides a picture of God and his law and order being exalted above all other things, with God settling disputes, people beating  swords into plow shares, learning from God, worshiping God , and “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore”. (Is. 2:3-4)  This is an Utopian dream.

When I was young in the 1960’s, I remember “flower children” protesting the Vietnam war and urging the world to live in peace. This is the same dream. It seemed so pure and simple. All we need is love.

Except, the 1960’s was also a tumultuous and chaotic time.  Drugs, violence, and free sex were the order of the day. Young people were challenging and throwing off moral conventions and religious convictions. Unlike the Isaiah’s Utopian vision, the 1960’s dream was a secular one.

I have seen the consequences of that societal upheaval throughout my life. Drugs have taken an untold toll in lives lost and wasted. The opiate and heroin epidemic of our current times is partially a product of opening Pandora’s pillbox in the 1960’s.

Violence is as much or more a part of our world today than it was in the 1960’s. We don’t live in peace with each other. Wars continue to rage. Neighbors continue to fight with neighbors. More Americans are killed in the City of Chicago, alone, than in foreign wars. But that is only a drop in the bucket. Multiply all the other crime-ridden cities in the US. That doesn’t even begin to count what is happening in other parts of the world.

Free sex has also taken its toll. More children live in single family households today than ever before. The scourge of aids has taken God knows how many lives in the US and around the world. Pornography threatens to undo the fabric of our society, warping the minds and hearts of children at young ages, objectifying women and sex and feeding a ruthless and insatiable underworld industry that preys on vulnerable people in our communities.

In Isaiah 2:7-8, after describing the Utopian vision, the prophet comes back to reality. Jerusalem and greater Judah in Isaiah’s day were far from the utopia he envisioned. Isaiah’s description of the people in his time could be aptly applied to the people in the United States in this time:

“Their land is filled with silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures; their land is filled with horses, and there is no end to their chariots.

“Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made.”

Continue reading “When Your King is a Child”

Judging the Church and Reconciling the World

God’s heart is to have the Gospel (Good News) preached to all the world, but the Church is preaching judgment instead.

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Paul writes to the Corinthians “not to associate with sexually immoral people”, but he qualifies that statement to say that he is “not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters since you would need to go out of the world”. (1 Corinthians 5:9-10) What is Paul talking about here?

Paul goes on to clarify that he is writing to the Corinthians “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler – not even to eat with such a one.”

He is obviously talking about people within the church, and this is a point that I think we have generally gotten wrong in the modern church today, but maybe not in the way that one might suppose.

It seems to me that we have got these instructions from Paul to the Corinthians exactly backwards.

I think of the Moral Majority when I say this. I think of the efforts of Christians to try to impose “Christian values” on our world. I realize that I am departing from many Christian leaders to say something like this, but please hear me out.

Continue reading “Judging the Church and Reconciling the World”

God’s Purpose is Accomplished – Even When People Reject Him

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Jesus said, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my father.”  (John 15:22-24)

These words convey a stark reality that is not pleasant to consider. We might assume that Jesus was speaking of the Jews when He spoke these words, but we would be wrong. Jesus was speaking of the “world”. Just before Jesus spoke the words quoted above, He said:

“If the world[1] hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19)

These are curious things coming from Jesus. The import of what Jesus says here is that the world is ordered in opposition to Jesus and God the Father. And even when people reject Jesus, God’s purpose is fulfilled.

In other places, we see Jesus saying very different things. For instance, Jesus said elsewhere, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17) So, we might be confused when we see Jesus implying that he came to hold people accountable for their sins.

Continue reading “God’s Purpose is Accomplished – Even When People Reject Him”

Editing the Right and Wrong

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This headline reads, Fiorina Was right. The article, then, goes into details regarding how Carly Fiorina, the rising GOP star, was right about the Planned Parenthood videos. The sanguine point is not that Carly Fiorina is right about those videos, but that so many people can be so wrong.

Yes, I said it, wrong! I know it is not poplar to believe in right and wrong, but morality never won a popularity contest. Morality often goes against the popular culture.

I heard some pundit say that the Planned Parenthood videos are “heavily edited” and that Planned Parenthood does none of the things they are accused of doing in those videos. Seriously?

Continue reading “Editing the Right and Wrong”

8 Important Points About Judging and Judgment

There is a great divide between the World and the Church, and it is getting bigger. The fracture is even dividing the Church. What Jesus said about judging and judgment is critical to understand in this time.

Judge Listening to Attorney --- Image by © Tim Pannell/Corbis

In a world that rejects the idea of sin, embraces moral relativism and demands that Christians tolerance everything (other than what we believe to be true), we naturally feel like we are being besieged; we are on the defensive. We know that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s righteousness, but our culture doesn’t buy into that idea, let alone any biblical truth that suggests a person shouldn’t simply “do what feels good”.

We tend to go to two extremes. Some of us get on our soapboxes; we get in the world’s face about sin and judgment. Some of us bow in deference to the current cultural norms of acceptance and tolerance. Neither one is a biblical response to sin in the world.  Continue reading “8 Important Points About Judging and Judgment”

The Great Divide

Grand Canyon


“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance[i].” (2 Peter 3:9)

People have spoken about the second coming of Christ since soon after Jesus died. We still talk about it today. I am not going to try to suggest when the second coming will be. No man knows the day or the hour. (Matt. 24:36) But, a God who could raise Jesus from the dead can cause Him to come again. It will happen. We will also all die as surely as we live. Continue reading “The Great Divide”